The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

R | 107 mins | Drama, Science fiction | 7 March 1990

Director:

Volker Schlondorff

Writer:

Harold Pinter

Producer:

Daniel Wilson

Cinematographer:

Igor Luther

Editor:

David Ray

Production Designer:

Thomas Walsh

Production Companies:

Cinecom International Films, Cinetudes Film Productions, Handmaid's Tale Productions
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HISTORY

The following statement appears in opening credits: “Once upon a time in the recent future a country went wrong. The country was called The Republic of Gilead.”
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “The Producers wish to thank: Duke University; Jake Phelps; Sugar Mountain Ski Resort; Michelle Rosen; Jem Associates, Inc.; St. Gillian Sportswear Ltd.; Zoran; Harco Industries, Inc.; John M. Heller; Rodney and Constance Ward; Patrick Bastin; Rene Nekkers; The Meredith College Chorale, Raleigh, N. C.; City of Durham, N. C.; North Carolina Film Commission.”
       Costume designer Colleen Atwood's first name is misspelled "Coleen" in opening credits.
       A 4 Mar 1990 LAT article reported that Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood wrote her book based on the central idea of what would happen if religious fanatics took over the world. A trip to West Berlin, Germany, gave Atwood the inspiration to recreate that city’s sinister atmosphere in her novel. According to a 2 Apr 1989 NYT article, Atwood was not interested in writing a screenplay based on her book, and approved producer Daniel Wilson’s decision to hire playwright-screenwriter Harold Pinter because of his command of dialogue.
       A 31 May-7 Jun 1989 Time Out article stated that actress Sigourney Weaver and director Karel Riesz had been attached to the project in its early stages but moved on to other commitments.
       Production charts in the 8 Feb 1989 Var and 28 Mar 1989 HR stated that principal photography would begin 22 Feb 1989 in Durham, NC. Time Out reported that the picture had a $13.5 million budget and a ten-week shooting schedule.
       The Time ... More Less

The following statement appears in opening credits: “Once upon a time in the recent future a country went wrong. The country was called The Republic of Gilead.”
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “The Producers wish to thank: Duke University; Jake Phelps; Sugar Mountain Ski Resort; Michelle Rosen; Jem Associates, Inc.; St. Gillian Sportswear Ltd.; Zoran; Harco Industries, Inc.; John M. Heller; Rodney and Constance Ward; Patrick Bastin; Rene Nekkers; The Meredith College Chorale, Raleigh, N. C.; City of Durham, N. C.; North Carolina Film Commission.”
       Costume designer Colleen Atwood's first name is misspelled "Coleen" in opening credits.
       A 4 Mar 1990 LAT article reported that Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood wrote her book based on the central idea of what would happen if religious fanatics took over the world. A trip to West Berlin, Germany, gave Atwood the inspiration to recreate that city’s sinister atmosphere in her novel. According to a 2 Apr 1989 NYT article, Atwood was not interested in writing a screenplay based on her book, and approved producer Daniel Wilson’s decision to hire playwright-screenwriter Harold Pinter because of his command of dialogue.
       A 31 May-7 Jun 1989 Time Out article stated that actress Sigourney Weaver and director Karel Riesz had been attached to the project in its early stages but moved on to other commitments.
       Production charts in the 8 Feb 1989 Var and 28 Mar 1989 HR stated that principal photography would begin 22 Feb 1989 in Durham, NC. Time Out reported that the picture had a $13.5 million budget and a ten-week shooting schedule.
       The Time Out article stated that the Duke University campus sports fields were used to stage the slaughters of suspected adulterers and rapists, the hanging of four women known to have abortions, and a birthing party. The Blue Ridge Mountains provided another shooting location for the production.
       A 20 Feb 1990 HR news item stated that a 7 Mar 1990 gala benefit screening to honor Atwood was held at The Canadian Centre of International Pen in Toronto, Canada.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Mar 1990
Calendar, p. 39, 90.
Los Angeles Times
7 Mar 1990
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
2 Apr 1989
p. 13, 17.
New York Times
7 Mar 1990
p. 17.
Time Out
31 May - 7 Jun 1989
pp. 13-14.
Variety
8 Feb 1989.
---
Variety
14 Feb 1990
p. 32.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Cinecom Entertainment Group Presents
A Daniel Wilson Production
In Association with Cinetudes Film Productions and Odyssey/Cinecom International
A Film by Volker Schlondorff
A Co-Production With Bioskop Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl asst cam
Still photog
Cam dept trainee
Best boy
Dolly grip
Grip
Best boy
Elec
Elec
Video playback
Cam equip and lenses
Lighting and grip
Addl lighting eff
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept intern
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative matching
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set dresser
Asst set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Set des
COSTUMES
Cost des
Key costumer
Asst costumer
Asst to cost des
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus supv
Mus ed
Addl mus ed
Addl mus ed
Mus project mgr
Asst to comp
Mus programmer
Mus rec by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd boom op
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
Digital audio prod
Digital audio tech consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Asst spec eff
Opticals by
DANCE
Handmaid routines
Handmaid routines
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
Ms. Dunaway's makeup and hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Conceptual adv
Local casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod coord
Accountant
Accountant
Accountant
Loc mgr
Asst loc
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Picture cars coord
Prod van driver
Honeywagon driver
Driver
Driver
Insert car driver
Asst to the prod
Asst to Mr. Schlondorff
Key prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft services
Caterer, Allstar Motion Pictures Catering
Gilead News prod
Video graphics
Video graphics, Rebo Studio
Video footage
Dailies adv
Lighting & Grip
Insurance
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Toronto, 1985).
SONGS
“Whispering Hope,” written by Alice Hawthorne
“Shall We Gather At The River,” written by Robert Lowry
“Old Hundredth (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow),” written by Louis Bourgeois
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SONGS
“Whispering Hope,” written by Alice Hawthorne
“Shall We Gather At The River,” written by Robert Lowry
“Old Hundredth (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow),” written by Louis Bourgeois
“Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You),” written by Jimmie Hodges, performed by The Mills Brothers, published by Duchess Music Corporation, rights administered by MCA Music Publishing, A Division of MCA, Inc., Used by permission All rights reserved, courtesy of MCA Records
“I Don’t Know Enough About You,” written by Peggy Lee and Dave Barbour, performed by The Mills Brothers, published by Duchess Music Corporation, rights administered by MCA Music Publishing, A Division of MCA, Inc., Used by permission All rights reserved, courtesy of MCA Records
“Little Girl Blue,” written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, published by Polygram International Publishing, Inc.
“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, published by Polygram International Publishing, Inc.
“Johnny Come Home,” written by David Steele and Roland Gift, performed by Fine Young Cannibals, published by Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd., courtesy of MCA Records/I. R. S. Records, licensed by FFRR Records Ltd. Trading as London Records © 1985
“Tongue Dance,” written by Les Rita Mitsouko, performed by Les Rita Mitsouko, published by Additions Virgin Musique, courtesy of Virgin France SA
“Crazy,” written by Willie Nelson, published by Tree Publishing Co., Inc., performed by Patsy Cline, courtesy of MCA Records
“Save A Soul In Every Town,” written by Henry Priestman, published by 10 Music Ltd., performed by The Christians, courtesy of Island Records
“Bereavement,” written by Otto Sieben, published by Sonoton/Associated Production Music, courtesy of Sonoton/Associated Production Music, “Amazing Grace,” written by John Newton.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 March 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 7 March 1990
New York opening: week of 7 March 1990
Production Date:
began 22 February 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Cinecom Entertainment Group, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 August 1990
Copyright Number:
PA479400
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Prints
Prints by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
107
Length(in feet):
9,746
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Germany, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30179
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the future, the border patrol stops Kate, her husband, and daughter, Jill, as they attempt to cross illegally from the Republic of Gilead. Kate’s husband is shot dead, and guards arrest her. As Kate is transported to a processing center in which hundreds of women are gathered, Jill wanders alone in the snow at the border. A supervisor named Aunt Lydia informs Kate and other women that they have been selected to become handmaids to do God’s work. During a bus ride to the “Red” Center, a passenger named Moira tells Kate that she was arrested for “gender treachery” or liking other women. At night, the women sleep on cots in a large gymnasium. As Aunt Lydia leads the evening prayer, the handmaids are ordered to pray for greater fertility. When one prisoner revolts, Aunt Lydia remains calm as guards carry her away. At breakfast, the prisoners receive more drugs than food. Aunt Lydia lectures that increased radiation in the environment has reduced the number of childbearing women to one in a hundred. Later, a handmaid suffers corporal punishment for masturbation. Aunt Lydia says men cannot help themselves, but women have self-control and should exercise it. Aunt Lydia escorts Kate, dressed in a simple white skirt and blouse, and wearing a permanent I.D. bracelet, to an interview. She is introduced to Serena Joy, the wife of the Commander, who imparts the rules she expects Kate to follow. Kate must stay out of Serena’s way, and when her husband is away on business, Kate must return to the Red center. Kate assures her that she wants a baby because Serena says Kate is there to ... +


In the future, the border patrol stops Kate, her husband, and daughter, Jill, as they attempt to cross illegally from the Republic of Gilead. Kate’s husband is shot dead, and guards arrest her. As Kate is transported to a processing center in which hundreds of women are gathered, Jill wanders alone in the snow at the border. A supervisor named Aunt Lydia informs Kate and other women that they have been selected to become handmaids to do God’s work. During a bus ride to the “Red” Center, a passenger named Moira tells Kate that she was arrested for “gender treachery” or liking other women. At night, the women sleep on cots in a large gymnasium. As Aunt Lydia leads the evening prayer, the handmaids are ordered to pray for greater fertility. When one prisoner revolts, Aunt Lydia remains calm as guards carry her away. At breakfast, the prisoners receive more drugs than food. Aunt Lydia lectures that increased radiation in the environment has reduced the number of childbearing women to one in a hundred. Later, a handmaid suffers corporal punishment for masturbation. Aunt Lydia says men cannot help themselves, but women have self-control and should exercise it. Aunt Lydia escorts Kate, dressed in a simple white skirt and blouse, and wearing a permanent I.D. bracelet, to an interview. She is introduced to Serena Joy, the wife of the Commander, who imparts the rules she expects Kate to follow. Kate must stay out of Serena’s way, and when her husband is away on business, Kate must return to the Red center. Kate assures her that she wants a baby because Serena says Kate is there to procreate on the couple’s behalf, but the arrangement will not work if she is resistant. Back at the center, Aunt Lydia conducts brainwashing sessions. Handmaid Janine apologizes for causing her own rape. Kate and Moira refuse to believe the propaganda, and meet secretly in the women’s bathroom. Moira is upset to learn that Kate has an assignment. When Moira threatens to do whatever it takes to escape, Kate warns her to be careful. At church, a priest recounts that sexual promiscuity, widespread abortion, birth control, test tube babies, genetic engineering, and artificial insemination are reasons for the drastic steps being taken to promote procreation. Moira faints. As guards carry her to an ambulance, Moira signals Kate that her collapse is only a ruse to avoid an assignment. At the Commander’s house, Serena reminds Kate, now renamed “Offred,” that she is there for one reason only and must respect the rules. Soon, while conducting a church service, the Commander reads a passage from the Bible referencing a surrogate wife. Later, Offred’s head rests on Serena Joy’s lap in a shared ceremony as the Commander performs an impersonal act of penetration. After the commander leaves, Serena is angered by Offred’s tears and orders her back to her room. There, Offred cries as she disrobes, and leans out a window for fresh air. From his quarters, Nick, the Commander’s chauffeur, sees Offred in despair. A few nights later, Offred wanders downstairs when she cannot sleep. Nick steps out of the shadows, tells her not to be afraid, and kisses her. He offers word that Kate/Offred is to meet the Commander in his office at 10 p.m. the following night. The next day, Offred asks Ofglen, a neighbor’s handmaid, what happened to the Commander’s last surrogate, but the woman has no information to share. At night, Nick escorts Offred to the Commander’s office. There, he says he wants to get to know her better. He asks her to remove her veil and they play a game of Scrabble. He serves her strawberries, and praises her skill at the word game when she wins. As she leaves, the Commander informs Offred he will be away for a week at the Capitol. As Serena works in the garden, she tells Offred that a child will make her whole. When Serena acknowledges that Offred has a daughter, the handmaid asks her if she knows what happened to Jill, and Serena offers to make inquiries. Back at the Red Center, Offred undergoes a gynecological exam. The doctor informs her that two of the Commander’s previous handmaids failed and he is likely sterile. He warns her that she will be blamed, and offers to impregnate her himself, but she declines. At night, Offred and Moira imprison Aunt Lydia in the women’s bathroom. Moira steals the supervisor’s uniform and escapes from the Red Center. Back at the Commander’s home, Offred wins a card game. As a prize, the Commander gives her forbidden fashion magazines to read and kisses her roughly. Offred changes the subject, and requests that he procure hand lotion for her. During an official act of sex, the Commander touches Offred, and Serena feels threatened by her husband’s show of tenderness. Later, in the Commander’s office, Offred warns him not to show any signs of affection. When he complains that their relationship is too impersonal, Offred reminds him that if Serena is jealous, she could be banished to the Colonies. He promises to play by the rules and gives her hand lotion. The Commander reveals that Offred’s predecessor could not conceive and hung herself. Later, Serena realizes that her husband is sterile and suggests Offred become pregnant with another man. Offred worries that she will be killed for breaking the rules, but Serena arranges for the handmaid to be with the chauffeur, Nick. At night, Offred sneaks to Nick’s room above the garage. They kid about Offred doing her duty for her country and make passionate love. As she leaves, she tells him her real name is Kate. The next day, Serena shows Offred a photograph of her daughter, who is alive and in good hands. However, Offred does not have permission to see her. Later, Nick comforts Offred, who pines for her daughter. At a garden party that Serena hosts for women and their handmaids, everyone becomes a voyeur as one surrogate gives birth during the event. The newborn is taken from the birth mother before she knows its sex, and is displayed for the guests to applaud. Offred searches the crowd looking for her daughter. Soon, Serena, angry about being childless, tells Offred to get on with it. Later, at a Red Center rally, Offred watches as another handmaid is hanged for having sex with a staff doctor while pregnant and miscarrying. The guilty doctor is dropped in their midst, and a throng of handmaids maul him to death. Ofglen reveals to Offred that the Commander is in charge of security for the state, and has a harsh reputation. She insinuates that Offred may be called upon to kill him as part of a rebellion. Later, the Commander presents Offred with an evening dress and matching boa. Nick drives them to a nightclub for an evening of fun. Offred has come to believe that nightclubs were outlawed, but instead, they have become places for men to network and drum up business. When she asks about the exotic women on the dance floor, the Commander explains that they are mostly former lawyers, sociologists, business executives, schoolteachers, and other professionals, who prefer working at the club to the alternative. Moira, dressed in a red miniskirt and dramatic black eye makeup, recognizes Offred and waves. The friends reunite in the women’s restroom. Moira describes how she was arrested at the border, tortured, and given a choice to work at the nightclub or be sent to the Colonies. Offred returns to the Commander and they dance. Afterward, he escorts her to a private room with an ample bed. Back at the Commander’s home, Nick is jealous until Offred reveals that she is pregnant with his baby. She will not surrender the child, and asks if he is willing to escape with her. Later, she finds a note with a message “10 p.m. tomorrow” and a knife with a retractable blade. The next day, Serena confronts Offred about her night out. Although she apologizes, Serena Joy feels betrayed, and calls Offred a “whore.” At 10:00 p.m., Offred makes a surprise visit to the Commander at his office. He admits that he was forced to confess his activities to Serena when confronted by her. He apologizes that Offred’s fate is beyond his control, and tells her he cares for her to soften the blow, but she stabs him in the neck. Soldiers arrive and arrest her. Nick appears and tells Serena that Offred is responsible for the Commander’s murder. Offred punches Nick for betraying her as she is forced into a van. However, she soon realizes the soldiers are there to help her escape. Nick orders her to remove her handmaid uniform, and she transfers to a car. Although she wants to stay with Nick, he orders her to leave and promises to find her. A statewide search is conducted to find the Commander’s assassin. In the mountains occupied by rebels, Kate waits for her baby to be born and knows that some day in the future she will be reunited with Nick and her daughter, Jill.
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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